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By Carole Bell
Observer Columnist 

Sunshine and Good News

Smart and Spicy


November 2, 2017

I decided to spend my birthday soaking in good news.

Sunshine and laughter: a lovely way to spend one's birthday.


In Quebec, a six-year-old autistic boy was so super-sensitive it hurt to have his hair touched. Franz Jacob, a barber, grabbed his tools, following the boy around his hair salon, even laying down on the floor when the boy did, to keep cutting.

The boy's mother was so grateful, she put the barber's photo online.


Prison inmates around the world, competing to be the most compassionate? In California, the CIW (CA Institution for Women) counted 4500 acts of kindness, including creating charity items, making whimsical hats for terminally ill kids, and fashioning bedding for homeless or hospitalized vets.

"Mostly, there has been a shift in awareness of how compassion and acts of kindness can change attitudes and our living environment," one inmate confided.


A NJ middle school teacher, Albert Siedlecki, taught eighth-grade science for 40 years.

A neurosurgeon, Dr. Lee Buono, did an "awake craniotomy," requiring the patient being awake during surgery. Result: the patient, who couldn't speak clearly before surgery, could talk again. That patient, a judge, then ordered the surgeon to thank whichever teacher had inspired him to become a neurosurgeon.

Dr. Buono called Siedlecki, his former teacher, who'd told him, "You could be a brain surgeon if you wanted to."


Joseph Badame and wife Phyliss stocked dry food, generators, fuel, and thousands of toilet paper rolls, as disaster prep. When Phyliss died, Badame was mired in debt; his home was foreclosed. He felt he'd lost 45 years of survival planning, until he met a couple running a Puerto Rican food truck in Medford. Learning their relatives had no food after Hurricane Maria, Badame offered all of his: 80 barrels of rice, flour, sugar, beans, mixes, seeds.

"Those people are starving and they have nothing. I just can't sit by."

The food was flown, delivered, and fed dozens of families.


Bethenny Frankel, former talk show host, chartered four planes filled with 20,000 pounds of food, water, medical supplies, insulin, diapers, and gift cards - and EMT's - to help Puerto Rico. Then she loaded the empty planes with cancer patients and people needing urgent medical attention, helping them get treatment. She used her own money, plus donations, then flew to Mexico to help earthquake victims.


There's no more measles in the U.K.; The World Health Organization says it reached elimination status in 2016.


Disappointed with how artificial arms looked, and needing one, Stephen Davis confessed his frustration online. Seeing that, Drew Murray decided to design one using a 3D printer. He now creates custom "cool" designs children would like: Iron Man, Harry Potter, Spider-Man. He takes no money, uses donations for costs, and offers template designs online at "Team Unlimbited."


88-year-old retired principal Richard Overfelt created a graduate class to re-energize teachers, given pressure to improve test scores. He says his life goal is helping teachers rediscover the joy of teaching. "I teach that if the heart is empty, it doesn't make any difference how full the head."


70,000 people attending Nevada's Burning Man festival left behind 5,000 bicycles for scrap. Matthew Rockwell decided to save as many as possible, then donated 500 bikes to Houston families needing transportation. Meg Kiihne also helped, renting a truck, and cleaning over 100 bikes.

"Bikes can enable somebody who may have lost their home and staying with a friend, they can get to their job at a resort so they can continue to make money to help rebuild their home... they can get around on a bike and get to food," she said.


Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans' new quarterback, gave his first NFL paycheck to three cafeteria workers who had lost everything during Hurricane Harvey.

Watson gave three envelopes with ribbons to three women working in the team's cafeteria.

"For what you all do for us every day and never complain, I really appreciate you all, so I wanted to give my first game check to y'all to help y'all out in some type of way."


David Deutchman, retired, holds babies twice a week in an Atlanta hospital ICU. "He rocked our baby for countless hours," one mother said. An ICU nurse said being cuddled helps the babies, who feel "that comfort, that warmth." He's been volunteering to give hugs for 12 years.


Despite being all dressed-up for his wedding, Clayton Cook saw a little boy struggling to keep his head up in a Canadian river and immediately dived in, saving the boy. His bride said that's why she loves him.


California is the first state to pass a law against puppy mills; now pet stores can only sell animals from a rescue group or shelter.


Teenager Tyler Opdyke found a wallet with $1500 in cash. Just starting college, he could have used the money, but he returned it to the owner. "I've been raised in the church all my life and I just felt this is not mine," he said. "I don't know their family. I don't know what they're going through."


An Oklahoma mother shopping in Target watched her son Owen grab three dinosaurs on display, then say "Hi" to a man walking by. The man took out money, putting it in Owen's shirt pocket.

"I just lost my two-year-old grandson last week," he said. "You take this money and buy this boy all three dinosaurs," he said, wiping tears. The mother cried.


Pam Brekke drove 30 miles after Hurricane Irma for a generator to power her father's oxygen supply. Roman Santiago, the man in front of her at Lowe's, got the last one. Seeing her crying, he insisted she take his.

When Lowe's got generators, Santiago went back for one; the manager said he deserved one for free, calling him "the hero of the day."


Marc Bell, learning that 70 foster care children had nowhere to stay after Hurricane Irma, opened his $30 million mansion to them. He arranged manicures for the girls, hired a balloon entertainer and a singer, served 800 meals, and created a GoFundMe page to help their damaged home.

"To have these kids feel welcomed and to just feel comfortable, as a mom it just makes you feel like you're doing something good," Marc's wife Jennifer said. "It's knowing that later on these kids are going to look back and they're going to want to help someone else."


Amiah Van Hill, an Idaho six-year-old, raised $40 selling lemonade, then used it to pay the lunch debt at three local schools. She now hopes to raise $23,000, selling lemonade and using GoFundMe, to pay off the entire district's lunch debt.


In Pennsylvania, several times a month a couple pays the restaurant bill for an unsuspecting family or party. About the donor, the manager revealed: "He always says, 'I grew up poor and now I'm not.'"


Earl Melchert rescued a 15-year-old girl who'd escaped from her kidnappers. When the police gave him the $7000 reward, he gave it to the girl. "The family needs the money,” Melchert said.


When Deanna Feist and husband left Florida for Tennessee to escape Hurricane Irma their car battery died on the way to lunch. A stranger gave them a lift and a battery jump. After lunch they got a note from the manager who'd given them the lift.

"You are probably here to escape the Hurricane Irma. My brother lives in Tallahassee, Fl. I am saddened to see such devastation in this beautiful state. I hope everything will turn out ok for you guys. Enclosed please accept my gift to you in case you need to buy a battery for your car. Also I am enclosing a meal ticket so you can come back to eat here. Good luck and Thanks for visiting my restaurant. Mo Tamaddoni, General Manager."

It contained $200 cash. Feist promised she would pay it forward.


"The great struggle in life is to be better each and every day.

And if you take a look around the horizon of humanity, it's -

'My God, is there anything we can do, big or small, to make the life of just one person a little bit better?'

And that's no small accomplishment."

David Letterman


Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

You can write to her at:


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